How to write a condolence letter

It’s hard to write condolence letters, whether it’s a handwritten note or a Guest Book entry. After all, you’re dealing with death and most of us want to avoid the topic. Death makes us feel vulnerable and sad, and in that state of mind, we face the formidable task of reaching out to someone who feels much worse than we do.

But although the right words can be hard to find, condolence letters are really important. Personal messages of sympathy go a long way in helping the bereaved navigate the painful and difficult process of grief. And wouldn’t you want to take the time to do something that you know will bring someone comfort?

That said, I’ll confess; I also find condolence letters tough to write. But I’ve learned some strategies over the years and I’ll share them with you.

1. Always write a draft. When you are satisfied with what you’ve written, copy it word for word.

2. Begin by expressing how you feel. If you are sad to hear the news, state that: “I was saddened to hear that your dad died.”

3. Find some recollection or memory to share: “I remember the day he surprised you at work and I really enjoyed meeting him.”

4. Add any additional reminiscences: “It was so apparent how close you were and I’m hoping those good times and wonderful memories will bring you comfort in the days and months ahead.”

5. Find a way to close that’s comfortable for you: “My thoughts are with you during this difficult time.”

Condolence letters are often saved and read multiple times. When someone is feeling blue, it’s comforting to reread sympathy messages. These letters remind the bereaved that their loved ones are remembered and they’re not alone in their grief.

To view more tips and read articles about writing condolence notes, visit our condolence section at LegacyConnect.

About Robbie Miller Kaplan

Robbie Miller Kaplan is a writer and speaker with an expertise in communications. She is the author of nine books, including How to Say It® When You Don't Know What to Say. Robbie writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. In 1981, Robbie gave birth to a son Aaron in January and a daughter Amy in December. Both of her children died in infancy from the same congenital heart defect. It is Robbie's experiences with loss as well as her passion to make a difference with others grieving a loss that motivated her to write How to Say It® When You Don't Know What to Say. Her book is now available in individual volumes for Illness & Death, Suicide, and Miscarriage and e-books on Death of a Child, Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby, Pet Loss, Caregiver Responsibilities, and Divorce.
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